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9 best outdoor Christmas lights to make your house and garden sparkle

Dazzle your neighbours this Christmas with these tried and tested displays

Ali Howard
Tuesday 29 August 2023 13:00 BST
Transform your outdoor space with festoon lights, sculpural designs and cascading LEDs
Transform your outdoor space with festoon lights, sculpural designs and cascading LEDs (iStock/The Independent)
Our Top Picks

It won’t be long before the nights draw in, Strictly returns to our screens, and Mariah declares, “it’s tiiime!”, which is why we’ve gone all a-twinkle for this year’s selection of the best outdoor Christmas lights.

While there’s undeniably a scale of tasteful to tacky, one thing we can all agree on this festive season is that we want the sparkle without the extra burden on our electricity bill. Luckily for us, most of the modern LED lights we tested were surprisingly low voltage for their brightness, meaning lower running costs: a win for our wallets, and the environment.

If you don’t want to worry about running a cable into your home you can choose battery-operated lights, of course. However we found, with clever design, most of our mains-operated Christmas lights gave us a generous length in order to discreetly run the illuminations from indoors, with enough flex to position the lights exactly where we wanted them.

Increasingly high tech, today’s outdoor Christmas lights often come with a timer and remote control, enabling us to choose the perfect moment to switch on – and, of course, to conserve energy during daytime and in the middle of the night. Some come with multiple lighting modes and special effects, too, meaning we can go from twinkly to flashy, or even change colours and tones, with a push of a button.

How we tested

From subtle ditsy fairy lights up to sculptural pieces made for winter wonderland scenes, we tested a wide range of outdoor Christmas lights. We looked for quality of make, affordability, durability, how the lights stood up to the elements, and, most importantly, whether they brought the magic.

The best outdoor Christmas lights for 2023 are:

  • Best overall – Atkin & Thyme outdoor snowing cascade lights: £60, Atkinandthyme.co.uk
  • Best Christmas tree light – Cox & Cox light up twinkle cone tree: £165, Coxandcox.co.uk
  • Best multi-coloured smart lights – Twinkly strings, multicolour, 100 : £60.98, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best affordable Christmas lights – The Seasonal Aisle 225cm LED indoor/outdoor string lights: £17.99, Wayfair.co.uk

Atkin & Thyme outdoor snowing cascade lights

best outdoor Christmas lights review  Atkin & Thyme outdoor snowing cascade lights
  • Best: Overall
  • Power source: Mains powered
  • Timer included: Yes
  • Size: 6 x 1m drops
  • Number of lights: 6 clusters

If you’re going for a cosy chalet look this Christmas, these drop-down light clusters are a must. They’re designed to hang from a tree, along a fence or even across the front eaves of a roof for a real alpine aesthetic and boast an impressive 1m drop each. They come in antique white, with the ditsy LED lights giving off a warm glow, keeping the look classy, while the eight settings allow you to choose between different light effects and speeds, including, cleverly, one that looks like snow falling. They come with an energy saving eight-hour timer, too. However, as plug-in lights, the transformer must be kept indoors or in a weatherproof box at all times.

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Twinkly Christmas light string

best outdoor christmas lights reviews Balsam Hill
  • Best: Smart curtain light
  • Power source: Mains
  • Timer included: Yes
  • Size: 3in x 6.5in (lit surface)
  • Number of lights: 210

If you take your Christmas illuminations seriously, Twinkly is the name to know. This one may look like an unassuming indoor/outdoor fairy light curtain, but it boasts some truly impressive technology. Download the Twinkly app and you can connect your light display up to Google Home or Amazon Alexa and control it remotely with voice commands.

It features a total of 210 LED bulbs, all connected via a discreet transparent connecting wire. Once you’ve chosen the perfect spot to hang the curtain, you can use your phone’s camera to map the smart lights and let the fun begin. There’s a huge variety of visually arresting pre-sets, and you can even get creative and impress Christmas party guests with your own customisable patterns and colours.

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Gylefy outdoor Christmas lights, 100m

best outdoor christmas lights reviews GYLEFY
  • Best: For large surface areas
  • Power source: Mains powered
  • Timer included: Yes
  • Size: 100m
  • Number of lights: 800

Boasting a total of 800 LED bulbs along a 100m cable, these simple but effective string lights are ideal for larger surface areas, including whole house facades and sizable mature trees. And at under £40, they offer great bang for your buck. In warm white, the small bulbs offer a magical glow without being gaudy, while the discreet electric cord blends into the background. The string lights boast eight different modes, including slow, glow, fade, a twinkle/flash effect, and even waves, all controlled via a nifty remote. Reassuringly, these are entirely waterproof and can withstand extreme temperatures (fingers crossed for a white Christmas, then). Simply plug/unplug and they’ll remember your latest setting.

  1. £36 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Cox & Cox light up twinkle cone tree

best outdoor christmas lights Cox & Cox
  • Best: Christmas tree light
  • Power source: Mains powered
  • Timer: No
  • Size: H 241cm x D 101cm (497cm flex)
  • Number of lights: 355

For something a little more sculptural in the garden – back or front – Cox & Cox’s light up twinkle cone tree is a real head-turner. Simple in design, it features 15 strings of light, which are arranged into a classic cone shape, while the star on top is a glowing beacon of Christmassy magic. Reliably heavyweight and sturdy, the frame is fashioned from black painted iron, while the piece comes with four ground pegs to keep it firmly in place. Overall, the tree boasts 355 warm white bulbs, and there are eight different twinkle functions to choose from, operated via a remote control. While this outdoor light feature is perfectly weatherproof, the transformer and plug should be kept indoors at all times.

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Home Reflections indoor/outdoor twinkling festoon lights

best outdoor christmas lights Home Reflections indoor/outdoor twinkling festoon lights
  • Best: Christmas festoon lights
  • Power source: Mains powered
  • Timer included: No
  • Size: 4.5m (5m incl. cable)
  • Number of lights: 10 bulbs

While festoon lights are a welcome addition to the back garden at any time of the year, QVC’s offering brings a decidedly Christmassy edge. Ideal for smaller patio spaces, the lights comprise 10 bulbs along a 5m cable and feature a series of ditsy twinkling lights within each transparent acrylic orb. Handily, each bulb boasts a little hook to give you extra control over your hanging display – rather than just using the cable. The power source is a standard 3-pin plug, which will need to be kept indoors or securely covered. At just £25, these prove great value yet offer big impact.

  1. £25 from Qvcuk.com
Prices may vary
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Twinkly strings, multicolour, 100

best outdoor christmas lights Twinkly strings
  • Best: Multicoloured smart lights
  • Power source: Mains powered
  • Timer included: Yes
  • Size: 2.5m lead length; 1m cable
  • Number of lights: 100

Coloured Christmas lights are divisive but love them or hate them, you can’t deny these are seriously impressive. Twinkly’s bestselling multicolour strings get our top marks for versatility. The LED fairy lights come in a choice of four lengths featuring 100, 250, 400 or 600 lights, and offer endless colour combinations and patterns, all app controlled with Bluetooth and wifi connectivity. We loved playing around with the huge range of pre-made effects on the app, whilst synching them up to music – essentially turning our back garden into a video game style winter wonderland. On the practical side, the lights are reliably weatherproof and come with an indoor-only mains plug.

  1. £60 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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The Seasonal Aisle 225cm LED indoor/outdoor string lights

best outdoor christmas lights The Seasonal Aisle
  • Best: Affordable Christmas lights
  • Power source: Battery powered
  • Timer included: Yes
  • Size: 225cm

These pretty starburst lights work just as well in a tree as they do framing a window, making them a versatile offering. They’re also enticingly affordable, given that Christmas is such an expensive time of year. Handily battery powered, they can be placed anywhere outdoors, without having to stay close to a power source. They also feature multi-action control, with eight different modes to choose from, including static if the movement is too much. The warm white spidery lights may be small, but they offer a magical Christmassy vibe, inside or out, and they boast an easy to use timer, giving you six hours of illumination and 18 hours off.

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Lights4fun osby star curtain light

best outdoor christmas lights Lights4Fun
  • Best: For indoors and outdoors
  • Power source: Mains powered
  • Timer included: Yes
  • Size: 5m x 2m
  • Number of lights: 100

We love this brand for its array of outdoor lighting, not only for Christmas but for year-round garden illuminations. And despite the playful name, this is a company that always delivers on quality. The osby star curtain is an indoor/outdoor number, ideal for hanging in a window or from the roof of a porch. It features five 20cm stars with alternating drops of 40cm and 60cm, allowing for an evenly spaced-out display. The mains powered curtain features 100 LED lights in total, and in warm white, they offer an enchanting festive glow. The lights also boast a silver cable, which further adds to the Christmas sparkle, while a clever timer allows you to set the curtain to come on at the same time every night.

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Dunelm silver rattan snowman

best outdoor Christmas lights Dunelm
  • Best: Front garden Christmas light
  • Power source: Battery powered
  • Timer included: Yes
  • Size: H 48cm x W 22cm x D 14cm
  • Number of lights: Unspecified

While large-scale illuminated sculptural displays might not be to everyone’s taste, we couldn’t pass up this little character. The silver rattan snowman is just 48cm in height, meaning he’ll happily sit by the front door and welcome your Christmas party guests. The snowman is made from 50 per cent metal and 50 per cent polyethylene, giving it one sturdy structure, while a silver scarf, cute button eyes and a wooden carrot nose complete the look. Inside the body of the snowman is a series of twinkly warm white LED lights, which are thankfully battery powered, complete with a waterproof battery box. There’s also a timer function to ensure the little man doesn’t waste any energy during daylight hours.

  1. £18 from Dunelm.com
Prices may vary
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Outdoor Christmas lights FAQs

How to choose between different colour LED lights

Depending on the atmosphere that you want your Christmas lights to create, you can choose between different colours, whether it’s a vivid electric blue LED or a multi-coloured set, while the simple white lights can either be a warm white light or a cool one.

If you want your outdoor space to have a homely and traditional feel, the yellow hues of warm LEDs may be best suited to your tastes, while cool white LEDs with a blue hue to them may be more appealing if you prefer a brighter appearance and contemporary feel.

When should I put Christmas lights up?

You can, of course, put your Christmas lights up whenever you would like, but you may see Christmas lights starting to go up in the weeks after Halloween. You may decide to wait until the first day of Advent if you are following tradition, which will be the 3rd December.

When should I take the Christmas lights down?

Again, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to when you should take your Christmas decorations down, but many people who adhere to Christian tradition may wait until the twelfth night of Twelvetide, the Christian celebration of the 12 days of Christmas. Depending on when you start counting the 12 Days of Christmas, the twelfth night will be on either 5 January or 6 January.

The verdict: Outdoor Christmas lights

We loved Atkin & Thyme’s outdoor snowing cascade lights for their magical feel. The lights looked enchanting when hung from a tree, and while they do bring all the seasonal sparkle, they are not overtly Christmassy, meaning our winter wonderland can continue well into the new year.

Twinkly’s multicolour strings proved a hit with our house guests for its colour and pattern combinations that are seriously impressive. While, on the more affordable side, we loved The Seasonal Aisle’s outdoor string lights, as well as Dunelm’s characterful snowman, as both offered great bang for our buck.

Looking for something the woman in your life will love? Read our round-up of the best Christmas gifts for her

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